Japanese govt on board US bullet-train expansion plan

08:49, April 23, 2010      

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Japan may give financial backing to Central Japan Railway Co and other bullet-train makers bidding for US high-speed rail projects to help them compete with Chinese and European suppliers.

"We will support them," Noriyoshi Yamagami, head of the transport ministry's global railway strategy section, said in an interview on Wednesday. State-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation may provide financing, he said.

The government will ensure that Japanese companies don't compete against each other on specific US projects by focusing support on a single bid per line, Yamagami said.

Transport Minister Seiji Maehara is planning to visit the United States as early as next week to help promote Japan's high-speed trains.

"Government support will have a positive effect on the Japanese train industry," said Makoto Murayama, a Nomura Securities Co analyst in Tokyo.

"The Japanese industry in the past has suffered from a lack of government support when seeking overseas sales. The decision to offer support is welcome."

Japanese efforts to sell bullet trains in the US have been spurred by President Barack Obama's announcement in January of an $8 billion package of support for high-speed rail projects.

That funding has also lured France's Alstom SA, Germany's Siemens AG, Canada's Bombardier Inc and China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp, which are less hindered by domestic competition than Japanese train makers.

Yamagami's office was set up last year to help coordinate overseas sales efforts by Japanese train makers. Yamagami visited Washington in January to promote bullet trains, and he may also visit Florida, where Nagoya-based JR Central plans to bid for a $2.6 billion line between Tampa and Orlando.

The link, scheduled to begin operating by 2015, has received half of its budget from Obama's rail package.

"Jobs are going to be created by the building of high-speed rail links," said Yamagami. "It'll help stimulate the economy."

JR Central, the operator of Japan's busiest bullet-train line, has also said that it will bid for projects in California and Texas.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd and Hitachi Ltd are among other Japanese companies selling trains overseas.

JR Central fell 2.4 percent to 735,000 yen on Thursday morning in Tokyo.

It has gained 18 percent this year, compared with a 3.2 percent gain for the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

Train making unit Nippon Sharyo Ltd dropped 2.3 percent to 560 yen in Tokyo.

Japan is home to the world's first bullet train and the biggest high-speed network, carrying 308 million people in the 12 months through March 2009.

JR Central's N700 model can travel at a top speed of 330 kilometers per hour.

By comparison, Amtrak's Acela Express, which can reach 240 km per hour between Washington and Boston, carried 3.4 million passengers in fiscal 2008.

Source:China Daily


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